He ran. For a big dog he moved much faster than some would believe. He could smell the monster on the wind and that made him pick up the pace even more. He didn’t know what it was but he smelled her fear and confusion. His heart song was out there and he needed to find her before the monster did again. If the monster had her, she wouldn’t know him, might even fight him. He was going to bring her home this time. He came to a stop and sniffed the air. It had shifted. He caught the scent again and took off in that direction.
Back at the house Boone came out of the shower hoping August was waiting for him. An empty room greeted him. The air was heavy and he shifted from one foot to the other. He felt they had started to become friends again but he was worried how she would react when she found out about the house. Oh well, he did what he thought was best and she’d have to just get over it. The smell still clung to his skin. He had hoped the shower would have helped but it didn’t. It was the worst smell he had ever smelled but he knew that smell. It was the signature of a very destructive monster, one he had thought he had laid to rest a long time ago. He lay back down on the couch and tried to get to sleep but thoughts of the past etched hazy lines in his mind.
When he found her she was pacing between a rock and a tree. She stumbled over a root and fell down. She lay panting on her side and Meatloaf padded over to her and licked her face. The monster was gone but the essence still clung to her skin like dew on a spider web. She gave a soft whine in acknowledgment and he settled his bulk next to her. He curled around her offering his warmth and on the wind she gave a soft howl.
They looked on the scene of the two dogs cuddled together with a sense of awe and sadness. True love knew no bounds and was not limited to the human race. The man spoke without speaking and the woman nodded. Soon. Things had started and if all went as intended, life would be put back into balance, at least on a small spectrum. It all hinged on these two beautiful creatures and two willful humans, they just didn’t know it yet. They lived on instinct the furred beasts and that is what the windwalker had to trust in. His granddaughter’s life depended upon their strength and with a sigh they turned and melded with the ancient oak tree that shielded the cuddled forms. Meatloaf looked up when he felt the warm breeze pass by his muzzle. He sniffed the air then laid back down. He would bring her home when she was stronger. His girl would be okay with the man until he got back. Right now his job lay beside him and he could not leave her. The monster would be back to claim her and when it did, she would no longer meet it alone.
The sun shining through the window was what woke Boone out of a fitful slumber. It had taken him a long time to fall asleep after the nightmare. He saw no sign of August so he got up and made a strong pot of coffee. He truly loved the open space of the kitchen and the treasured memories of Gramps lamp on the table, Gram’s quilt on the chair. Augusts’ bedroom door was a jar and he couldn’t help taking a peek inside. His gaze immediately went to the hand carved headboard but he jumped like a thief when he heard the kitchen door open.
Turning he came back out in time before August caught him checking out her personal space.
“Any sign of him?” He asked knowing that would be her primary concern.
“No,” she said chewing her lower lip. The act tugged at his middle and an ache spread to his loins. He turned to pour the coffee.
“Well I’m sure he will turn up. He’s never run away before has he?”
“Not really. About two weeks ago he was gone all day though, which was strange. He’s never strayed from here at all since I’ve gotten him.”
“Well I’m going to take a ride around some of the back roads, wanna come?”
August brought her eyes up and looked at him. “Thanks but I better stay here in case he comes back. It’s just so weird. When you get back will you show me what you came here for? Maybe that will keep my mind off of him.”
With a nod he grabbed his keys and headed for his car. Without a doubt he thought, it would take her mind off of the dog, for a moment anyway.
Boone saw no sign of him on his drive. By noontime he decided he had better get back and face the inevitable. At some point she was going to have to learn what Gramp had left them. Maybe she would know what the hell to do with it.
As he drove along the old Miller road back to the house he thought about the fact he should probably tell her about the mortgage too. Just lay it all on the table before he got so wrapped up in her scent that it would be hell when she sent him away. The first time had been awful and the second round, he wasn’t sure he could survive. Oh there had been other women since he had watched her face drop and her heart sink and their future fall in the old barn but no one could take her place in his heart. That’s probably why his marriage to Becca just didn’t work.
Boone scratched at his jaw and decided to shut down the reminiscing. He couldn’t change the past but the future. Yep he’d come clean with all of it and when she sent him packing he’d lick his wounds somewhere down the road with a pretty little red head and a stiff bottle of Vodka. Surely that would take her taste out of his mouth. It hadn’t worked last time said a small voice in his head but he pushed it aside. The dust kicked up along the dirt road like a hundred fallen angels twirling and reaching for the heavens.
She sat on the porch in the swing and worried at her lip. She knew that if she kept at it at this pace, she’d have half her lip gnawed off like a coyote escaping the steel jaws of a trap. Why didn’t he come home? He always came back. She knew she shouldn’t obsess about it but she couldn’t help it. He was her responsibility and what if someone had hurt him.
A small wind whispered by her face and stirred the wind chimes to life. She could almost hear her Grampa telling her to be patient, not to worry. Animals had great instincts. The thought settled her mind and she sat back in the swing a little calmer. The smell of honeysuckle wafted by and she smiled. It would be okay.
Fifteen feet away the silent pair watched the girl in the swing. Finally she had relaxed and so could they. Her feelings were so tangible to them and her thoughts rang loud in their heads. Such was the burden of the windwalkers, now passed from their earthly bodies that they could hear so clearly but only speak on the whisper of the wind. Such a small sacrifice for the power they had wielded in life but now a curse to the grandfather in the shadow of a man. With a sweep of his hand he ruffled her hair with a breeze and sent a kiss upon the air. Almost as if she felt it she smiled and relaxed more eagerly into the swing. The shadows stood hand in hand and then walked back into the tree knowing soon; soon they would be needed and must save their strength for the fight.
Meatloaf laid the rabbit at her feet and smiled with pride. She needed to eat and so he caught her food. She ate greedily now that she was herself and hunger upon her. She knew not when she had eaten last or how she came upon this forest. Some things were clear and others were gray. She had grown fond of this lumbering giant and realized he was here for her, her mate and companion. Dogs knew it in their soul and it being pure, without risk of temptation. She tried not to think of the other, the one who had taken her without her permission. Who had given her seven babies and then those that took the pups from her as well. When the monster had seized her; no more food, no shelter, and no love. They had thrown her away. In her dog’s mind she tried not to think of how they had dropped her on the side of an unfamiliar road. How she had run after the car thinking of her beautiful pups inside and what would become of them without her protection. She had run until the car became a speck on the horizon and still she ran until their scent no longer lingered on the air. Her paws were bloody and her mouth so dry but she went on until with exhaustion she had collapsed on the side of the road. She slept and it wasn’t much later when the monster came and claimed her. Disoriented she had wandered off the path. The monster came when it chose and took of its own violation. She would fight it but in the end it took as it pleased and left her shaky and sick for days. She longed for the life before the monster but even she knew that no longer existed. So she focused on the mountain of a dog and thanked the earth for sending him. She was ever so weary of being alone.
When Boone pulled up he found August sleeping like a child in the swing. She looked so peaceful he hated to wake her but he couldn’t put it off forever. As he climbed the stairs and reached for her he felt like a ton of bricks had attached itself to his back. Really why did life have to be this difficult?
“August, wake up Legs,” he gave her knee a little shake.
She opened one eye and gave him a lazy smile. “Go away Boone, I was having a good dream,” she said with a smile.
“Sorry but we’ve got some business to take care of.”
“Can we go shopping first? I’m sick of eating ravioli from a can and I don’t feel like going shopping by myself?” What she didn’t say was that Meatloaf always went with her to town and she didn’t think she could face her passenger seat without worry eating at her soul.
“Sure let’s take my car,” Boone replied. He knew her all too well the little procrastinator. She had once put off a term paper until the night before it was due and kicked herself for a week thereafter. Funny though, he remembered she had gotten a B+. Not too shabby for something thrown together last minute.
She ran into the house to get her purse. When she came back out the only addition to her attire were sandals. He loved that about her. She didn’t take forty minutes to apply makeup (mostly since she wasn’t wearing any) or expect to be told how nice she looked. August didn’t need that and as a man, sometimes it felt good not to have to preen over his woman. Correction his mind told his heart, not your woman.
It took a little over 15 minutes to get to town and it was accomplished in relatively comfortable silence. He didn’t think he needed to worry about talking at the moment. He drove into the parking lot of the only market in town. Then he thought of the half a dozen people he hoped they would not run into.
As they walked up to the door Boone nearly suppressed the groan that escaped his lips but apparently it was audible enough for August to hear as she looked in his direction. If a woman could be a steam engine, Hayley Jo was chugging at a fast pace to intercede them before they hit the store.
“Shit, shit, triple SHIT!” He spoke the oath with venom. Why didn’t he keep his intentions instead of letting the sunlight playing off of her sleepy face weaken his resolve? He straightened his back and waited for the shit to hit the fan.
“Well aren’t you two cozy again. Always did take you for a sloppy second kind of girl August,” Hayley said with a sneer. Her ego was still bruised from the other day and she had made a promise to herself to make Augusts’ life as miserable as possible, especially now that she no longer had the mortgage to hold over her. Oh how the anger burned in her heart.
Boone stepped between them just as August turned to put a hurting on Hayley Jo. “Don’t worry about her Legs, come on lets go.” He tried to steer her back towards the car but she was like a wildcat.
“You listen to me you snobby slut. I wouldn’t take your seconds, thirds, or fourths if they were the last men left on the planet. You’ve had a billion firsts so it leaves about two men left in this town that I would be interested in. Unfortunately one of them is your dad and the other is old Doc Crawford who wouldn’t touch you with a ten foot pole!” This was being thrown over Boone’s back as he tried to get August back towards the car.
“Oh you little hypocrite! What did you do for Boone to get him to pay off your mortgage, in full at that!? $80,000 give or take is a lot of money. Huh? Cat got your tongue? I’m not the slut, you are trailer trash!”
Boone wasn’t sure now what to do because any minute the attack was probably going to turn on him. Well Hayley was on her own because he was ready to run for the cover of the store. Augusts’ body had gone rigid in his arms and he would have paid top dollar to know what was going through her mind. He thought of what body part he should protect the most but was unsure what her next move would be. He was shocked by her next sentence.
“Well all I had to do was let him feel my ass and I sure didn’t do it on my backside in a barn like a dirty whore.”
Hayley’s face turned mottled red from embarrassment because there was quite a crowd drawn around them. Hayley turned around and pushed her way to her car. She didn’t look back as she sped down the road and knew she would now be gossiped about for months. After all her hard work trying to become respectable, well mostly, but still be herself! August had successfully ruined years of careful calculation. The townsfolk would always wonder and if August knew the real truth it would be even worse. Apparently Boone had never told her so he must have his reasons but now she had to plot to get back at August for making a fool out of her. She jammed the keys into the ignition and sent rocks flying with her fancy red car. Boone still held August and slowly he extricated himself from her. He was really impressed that she fought back and as the townsfolk moseyed back to their normal day itching to tell the next person about the scene that had played out in the parking lot, Boone felt a renew of hope. Maybe she did love him still.
“You dirty bastard. You did that? Without even telling me? Were you going to tell me and pray tell, who owns my land?” She was pissed.
Well perhaps he had gotten ahead of himself.
“I can explain. It was done with good intentions and you own your land. I’ve been meaning to tell you but it slipped my mind.”
“Slipped your mind? Oh do you normally spend that much money at one time that it gives you no pause for concern,” she waited a heartbeat then went on. “How am I supposed to pay you back? I don’t have that kind of money just lying around. It will take me years to pay you back you Jackass!” “Or you could let me grab your ass. That sounded fair to me.” A grin spread across his face and all she could do was look at his lips.
She whipped around and tried to contain the struggle. Oh she really wanted to be mad at him but she wanted to giggle more. And then she did. “Does that mean that one of my cheeks is roughly worth $80,000 or would you like to break it up into the two?” She couldn’t suppress the giggle any longer and it turned into a full belly laugh. She felt relieved.
“Um I would say I’d go for both of them. You know comparison shopping and all,” and he laughed too. Whew that was much better then he could ever have hoped for. “Come on lets go get some food and give them more to talk about. Hey aren’t your banking issues confidential?” He said as they walked into the store.
With a raised eyebrow she said she thought so and with a wicked grin she stored that tidbit of information into the back of her mind. Perhaps Hayley would be finding herself a whole new job by the end of the week.
“Don’t worry. Don’t call your lawyer. I’ve got a friend on the inside who can answer that question. I’ll call him later,” with a wink he put his arm over her shoulder and steered her towards the deli. August relaxed into the embrace and thought it felt pretty good to once again be in Boone’s arms, even if it was for a little while.
It must have been the day of conflicts because they hadn’t gotten very far before they ran into Biff. Suddenly realizing she had nothing to fear from him anymore her true self emerged.
“Hey Sweetie, what you doing? Hey why you hanging out with this loser? Let me take you out tonight. We will go to Smokey’s and then…” he wiggled his eyebrows with lewd intent.
“Fuck off Biff. I wouldn’t go out with you if you were the last man on earth. Plus you stink. Now please leave me alone or I am going to file a sexual harassment suit against you with the police department and if they won’t do it, I’ll call the Staties!” Biff grabbed the front of her shirt and pulled her close. “Sure you want to do that August. You want to play rough?” His nasty breath was warm and she leaned back from him.
“Yeah I say I do.”
“Get your hands off of her Junior or you’ll be missing it when I disengage it from the rest of your body!” Boone had a hand over Biff’s and applied the right amount of pressure on that sweet spot for him to let go.
“This isn’t the last of this Sweetheart! You’ve fucked yourself now,” he strode off walking like he was some bad ass.
“Bring it on,” she whispered to his receding back. “I guess he hasn’t heard yet,” she replied with a big grin. “Perhaps Hayley will give him a better reception.”
“Legs I gotta tell you…” but August stopped him with the shake of her head. She was suddenly drained from both encounters and wasn’t sure if she was ready for the details of that fateful day in the barn. She felt her guard slipping. She absolutely would not allow him back into her heart but a small voice in her head said he had never left it to begin with.
“Come on, let’s find the chip isle. I want something crunchy and full of fat,” she nearly dragged him. Thankfully the rest of the shopping was uneventful except for a few sly smiles from neighbors. They headed back home to prepare supper.
They had mutually decided at the store to get some cold cuts and make Italians. They set about slicing and dicing the veggies in harmony. Over the past couple of days they had fallen back on the easy routine they had known long ago.
“So what did Gramp leave us, you, or whatever?” She felt weird saying us even though it had sounded right.
“You’ll probably know better than I will because he wrote us both a letter but it is not in any language I am familiar with. So you’ll have to read both. I think he did that on purpose. Then there is this journal/book type thing and a key. So what do we look at first?” “All of it? Go get it. Now I’m curious. I always did like mysteries.”
The two shadows blended in well against the cedar walls. Their powers were a bit stronger with the amulet and old words near. They held hands and watched the scene unfold and prayed. It all hinged on if August remembered.
“Okay. Maybe we should start with the letters as I’m really curious what Gramps had to say. Can you read this? Hey and no add libbing or I’ll know!” He said as he sat back down. He didn’t like the fact that he couldn’t read it. He would have liked to have known before he had shown her but it was cryptic and he didn’t have the key.
“Let me see,” she said and reluctantly he handed the package over. “When did you get this?” She asked.
“About a week ago,” what he didn’t add was that it really freaked him out and hadn’t opened it for two days. It is not every day you receive a package from a man who has been dead for years.
“Okay. Here is your letter and it’s written in the old language that is why you can’t read it,” he looked at her as if to say “duh.”
“Holy I am a bit rusty so let me skim.”
“No way! The whole thing and together,” he said intensely.
“Fine! But I will not be held responsible for things lost in translation with all this pressure!” She stuck her tongue out at him and he felt his stomach roll. His eyes dilated and she quickly put her tongue back into her mouth.
I want to first apologize for any hurt I may have caused you over the years. My blood may not run through your veins but you are of my family and that will never change. I love you dearly and perhaps in trying to protect August, I pushed you away. An old man is allowed a few mistakes but not ones that change the course of other people’s lives. This I see now and perhaps now I can make that mistake right.
You shall need to be strong for this journey that I ask of you. Always let your heart lead for it will not lead you in the wrong direction. Love her as you always have and protect her the best you can. Sometimes the hardest part will be the waiting but take cues from the dog, he will understand.
This is an important journey. Not only do yours and Augusts’ life hang in the balance but if you find the keys, so will others. You must find the keys. This is not up to August because this is a partnership and that is your job. Only you will know how to find them. Somehow you will be connected to these keys and in the end it will bring peace to your own heart.
Her heart must be pure for her to journey back and forth to save them. It is the only way. Do not turn your back on this or the monster will steal the girl. This cannot happen. You must make amends and take control of the journey you started so long ago.
Think about what I have said and listen to your heart. I will guide you the best as I can as you go. I am with you always so if you need me, I am there on the whisper of the wind. I may not be the only one to guide you though. Listen to the ancestors, they are beyond wise.
“Okay your turn.” He said indicating her letter. His letter had hit too many tender areas. Boone wanted to move on.
She looked around hoping for a distraction but there were none about. “Okay.” She sighed as she opened the letter and prayed she would not cry alone at seeing his handwriting.
Dear Little One,
Yes, I am sure this is a big shock to you. Thinking you have finally gotten back into a routine and now you hear from me. You weren’t ready before Little One. You must now be ready and strong. Sometimes we must look back to be ready for the future. I need you to cooperate with Boone and realize he is only trying to help.
“He always was a wise man gramps was.”
August lifted an eyebrow. “May we continue?”
With a grin he nodded.
I took something from you and part of this journey is to give it back. The other part has to do with a universe out of balance. Your blood holds magic, an old magic that is there to right an old wrong. Without the keys you won’t be able to get there. Once you are there you must try to help them see. If they truly see, then you can help save them. If not, you have at least saved the key and at least protect the line. If you can’t change them then their life itself will be changed forever. Ultimately it is not up to you, it is either inside them or not. The main thing is the keys and keeping the keys safe. The dogs will understand.
The book holds the amulet. The amulet keeps you grounded, wear it always. It is for you and you only. Do not let anyone else touch it but Boone. Beware the dreams. Some will guide and others are meant to confuse. Look into your heart and you will know the difference between the two. The book explains the process but not the outcome. The outcome is up to you, the keys, and the others but the balance must be fixed or the world will never see the harmony some of the human race seeks. This is not a game. You have been taught the windwalker’s way. Remember the old way and believe it in your heart. Own it for it will guide you and I can guide you if you believe. Look to the trees, look to the wind, and the animals. We are all one with them.
If you remember anything of the Legend of the Soul Trees that I once told you as a child, then you will know what you are in for. The Soul Tree husks the soul of the sinners and you must be pure of mind, body, and spirit to enter.
I know this must give you many more questions than answers. The book will tell and follow it word for word or you too may be stuck in the tree forever.
“What in the world is he talking about? You getting stuck in a tree?” He looked at her quizzically. “And I don’t remember any Legend of the Soul Trees.”
“If you would be quiet and let me read perhaps we can find out,” but her voice held no bite as she wondered the same. Too many questions were left unanswered in these letters. “I remember the legend. I’ll explain once we finish.” So before you open the book I want you to cleanse your body, mind, and spirit. Boone’s too. You know the old ways, utilize them. But first, wait for the dogs. You need them both.
“Hmm” August said. “I’m not sure what these next couple of lines say,” she said this hiding her face a bit because she did. She did not want to say it out loud when in her heart she was hoping that Boone would stay and they could love each other forever just as she had hoped as a girl. God she was such a fool.
In the end Little One, you cannot keep him. Set him free as he was never yours to start. Remember these words as hopefully they will save you some heartache in the end.
“Really? Are there any similar words we can pick out and piece it together? It may be important?” He said with a worried look. He didn’t like missing pieces to any puzzle and a part of him wondered if she was holding back. Thankfully he had made a copy of her letter and he would hunt someone down to figure out what those last few lines said. Perhaps it was something private she didn’t want to share but this was a partnership and if it was important, he damn well was going to find out what it said one way or another.
August read on as there were a couple lines left.
Grandma sends her love too and know we are together. When we pass from this earth to the horizon, we shall see your mom and dad again. Right now you are too important to leave and we are always with you. Listen to the wind dear one, I shall speak to you when I can. Do not be afraid of the trees, they have much to say and are very wise. On this side and on the other. You have my blood in your veins, and you can do this. I need you to do this. I am proud of you.
Love always, Gramps
“Geesh, not like pouring on the pressure or anything. What the hell has he gotten us into?”
“If only I knew!” Boone responded. “But we’ll find out,” he took her hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze.
“Is it just me or does it sound like I am doing most of the work here?” She grinned and he felt better.
“So spill the legend.”
“Okay well from what I remember there was a warrior. Mind you this was a long, long time ago, I mean ancient.”
“I get it August,” Boone said with a smirk.